Cuomo’s return: Ex-gov launches podcast, laments downfall

NEW YORK (AP) — Andrew Cuomo isn’t begging for forgiveness.

Fourteen months after resigning from office in a sexual harassment scandal, the former New York governor is elbowing his way back into the public eye, launching a podcast and a political action committee in what could be the first steps toward a comeback bid for political office.

But he isn’t following the usual playbook for misbehaving politicians seeking redemption. Cuomo is unrelenting in his view that he was the victim of a political hit job. And he isn’t concerned that stance might cost him listeners on his new show, which has its debut episode Thursday.

“It’s just about expressing my opinion to the public and speaking publicly,” Cuomo said in an interview with The Associated Press. “And to the extent they don’t like what I have to say, then don’t listen.”

Cuomo’s first guest on the podcast, “As a Matter of Fact … with Andrew Cuomo,” will be Anthony Scaramucci, best known for his brief stint as former President Donald Trump’s White House communications director.

Among Cuomo’s competition in the crowded podcast space: His brother and confidant Chris Cuomo, a TV journalist who’s attempting a comeback of his own after he was fired from CNN for acting as a strategist for the former governor in violation of the network’s ethics rules.

The first two episodes are free, then the show will be paywalled on the $2.99-a-month Quake Media platform, where the other offerings include conservative hosts Laura Ingraham and Mike Huckabee’s podcasts and Pete Rose’s daily sports betting picks.

The prospect of Cuomo’s return to public life doesn’t sit well with Debra Katz, a lawyer for former Cuomo aide Charlotte Bennett, who sued Cuomo last month for sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation.

“I think the world would be a better place if he just stayed at home and worked on his motorcycle,” Katz said, referencing Cuomo’s well-known love for bikes and classic cars.

Once a national star in the Democratic Party, Cuomo resigned in August of 2021 after numerous women had accused him of sexual harassment, saying he had subjected them to unwanted kisses or touches, made insinuating remarks about their looks and sex lives or created a hostile work environment.

One aide said Cuomo had groped her breast. That allegation led a county sheriff to file a criminal charge against Cuomo, later dropped by the Albany County district attorney on the grounds that it would be too hard to win a conviction.

An investigation overseen by New York Attorney General Letitia James concluded Cuomo sexually harassed at least 11 women. Cuomo has accused James of preordaining the findings because she intended to run for governor. James did briefly run for governor after Cuomo’s resignation but quickly abandoned the campaign.

“There was politics at play. There was hype at play. There was exaggeration at play,” Cuomo said. “They weaponized day-to-day interactions.”

Today, he says he is more conscious of and careful in interactions with women — mainly to protect himself against further misconduct allegations.

But even after a year to reflect — traveling, boating, hiking with his dog Captain, working on an old Harley-Davidson motorcycle and finding a place to live — Cuomo doesn’t really think he did anything wrong.

“Yes, I posed for pictures with people when I put my arm around people. Yeah, I’m sure I said to somebody, ‘ciao bella.’ Yeah, I kissed people on the cheek,” Cuomo said. “Yes. And by the way, those are everyday interactions for millions of Americans. So yes, I believe there was politics, I believe was canceled culture. And I think the facts have proven that right.”

Through his political action committee, Cuomo said he plans to support like-minded Democrats running for state and federal offices. He said he’s upset with the marginalization of moderate Democrats in a party drifting to the left.

Cuomo, 64, wouldn’t rule out running for office again.

“Life has options and it depends on the options,” Cuomo said. “I’m not foreclosing anything, but you have to see what the options are.”

Asked if he might consider running for U.S. Senate in 2024, Cuomo said it was “too early to say,” but offered that his experience and personality were better suited to an executive role, like being governor.

This is the first election cycle in 20 years that Cuomo hasn’t been a candidate for any office. He had been the state’s attorney general before becoming governor.

He said he hopes his successor, Gov. Kathy Hochul, wins re-election over Republican challenger Rep. Lee Zeldin. “I’ll watch the returns. I just won’t have as much anxiety and stress and heartburn,” Cuomo said.

“I did the job of governor obsessively seven days a week and did the job as attorney general obsessively. That’s 15 years. That’s a big slice of life that I didn’t spend with friends, I didn’t vacation, I didn’t spend with my daughters,” Cuomo said. “So the real silver lining is having time to spend with family, friends, which is guilt free — without looking at the phone, without saying I should really be at work. That’s the silver lining.”

__

Follow Michael Sisak on Twitter at twitter.com/mikesisak and send confidential tips by visiting https://www.ap.org/tips/

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.